Five uncommon [and free] ways to find inspiration and discover fresh content.

27,000,000 pieces of content are shared each day (*AOL & Nielsen)

Content bombards us in one form or another from the time we get up in the morning until we go to bed at night.

My typical day starts at 5 a.m. First thing I make a huge pot of coffee, then start checking the latest streams on my social platforms, always keeping an eye out for fresh content ideas and inspiration.

Like many content seekers, I rely heavily on online sources that are familiar, like Post Planner, MashableSocial Media Examiner, and so many more. Heaven knows we need these reliable and valuable sources!

But, when I want to break away from the familiar and everyday sources, I step away from the online world to get my creative juices flowing. Here are five ways guaranteed to ignite some creative sparks!

Commercial Magazines
Magazines spend millions of dollars marketing consumers, which means YOU have access to highly paid marketing professionals at your fingertips. Take advantage of their marketing knowledge!

Start with the cover, notice font types, how text varies in size and color. Browse the table of contents as well as the advertising pages. Look at their CTAs (Call to Action) and questions they are asking their readers.

Just the other day, I was browsing Better Homes and Gardens and found oodles of inspirational ideas, concepts that would work well for my business in the Social Sphere.

“Junk” Mail
Read your junk mail. Yep, junk mail can be an excellent source of insight and information (especially at the local level). Brands pack a lot of punch into one small piece of information–a combination of art and science carefully crafted to target a particular audience. Before you pitch that real estate ad or restaurant flyer, look at it through the eyes of a content seeker. You may be surprised what you find!

TV Commercials
Pay attention to TV commercials. Brands spend billions of dollars to promote products and services in 30-60 seconds. How are they spinning their message? Look for one word or image that jumps out and captures your interest. Odds are if YOU thought “WOW” other viewers had the same excited reaction! How can your business translate that WOW factor into a similar concept that will capture the readers attention?

Free Industry Magazines
Free Industry Magazines (snail mail OR online version) contain an enormous amount of material. I’m talking about the free quarterly magazines that come from places you shop or have a membership. For example, Wegmans, AARP, and AAA publish monthly and quarterly magazines.

If you target a niche audience, this type of free content is invaluable! Look at the headlines and sub-topics? How are they enticing you to turn the page with just a few short words or phrases? You’ll be amazed how you can parlay a food or service industry concept into an idea that fits your content model. Don’t forget to look at HOW they delivered the message with text, color, and fonts–visual delivery methods are key!

Down The Rabbit Hole
Some of the best pieces of inspiration come from yes, going down the rabbit hole; Infographics top the list. Next time you come across an interesting Infographic look at the resources used to populate the information (usually at the bottom of the graphic.) If the company sharing the Infographic did not create an image, check the name or URL for who did and follow the resource listings!

The key element to these 5 unusual ways to find inspiration is to view content like a consumer AND through the eyes of a content seeker. Ask yourself, how can I translate that concept, be it a word, an image, text placement, or color scheme into something exciting in my business!

Bonus Ideas

I asked my Facebook readers how they found inspiration when short on creativity. Here’s what they had to say!

Question: When creativity takes a nap, what is your favorite out-of-the-box way to discover content?

“Reading AND (or) MUSIC!” Brooke B Squared Media

“I take a break from the computer and go for a walk with my dog in our local wood.” Andy, Andy Colwell Social Media

“I unplug and go outside. Nature and weather get my creative juices flowing.” Teri, Taking Care of Business

“This may seem strange, but I find my inspiration from working through technical snafus and issues. The AHA moment when I finally solve it encourages me to “journal” about it on my blog because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has struggled with the issue” Michelle, Codefetti

“I do the same as Andy and Teri which is to shut down and go outside for a nice long hike with the dogs even if we’ve already done one that morning. I generally come home with notes on my iPhone.” Patricia, The Aspen Stand

Over to you! Where do you find inspiration when creativity is taking a nap?